Julie, I don't think Andres or anyone else can find a "middle ground." Either you're shooting for a client, in which case his opinion of the work is all that matters, or you're shooting for yourself, in which case what anyone else thinks about it is nothing compared with its impact on you. I think Elliott Erwitt had the right idea. He'd go on a shoot for a client that put food on his table, but when he'd finished the day's grunt work he started shooting for himself. The finest part of his work is what he did for himself -- what he called "personal best." He once said something to the effect that he'd always been an amateur. Someone asked him how that could be since he made his living that way. He said, I love what I do. That's what amateur means.
Yep, well said Russ. the bottom line is that you're either are influenced by others to opinions and adjust your work accordingly or you're not. If you choose to earn your bread and butter from your photography for the masses of opinion, there is no point in just producing images which don't sell.
It may also be said that there are those who earn their bread and butter and fame from their images and don't give two hoots about catering to others opinions - these of whom I'm pretty sure are in much smaller numbers.
Everyone makes choices about where they stand according to one's own priorities, but from my expereince, and as you have illustrated above using Elliot Erwitt as an example, there is something more powerful, strong, fine, authentic... about work which has come from an artist whose expression is done for oneself and has not been moulded or altered to cater to 'the middle ground' of opinion.